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Blogger attorney Ogden grilled in public discipline hearing

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Publicly resigned to the likelihood that action will be taken against his law license, attorney Paul Ogden was grilled for hours July 30 in a hearing before the Indiana Disciplinary Commission.   

Ogden is accused of violating Rule of Professional Conduct 8.2 for comments made in private emails about a judge. He also is accused of violating rules 2.9 and 8.4(d) for sending a letter to Marion Superior judges regarding asset distribution in civil forfeiture cases. Ogden says U.S. Supreme Court rulings offer attorneys the same protection as the public regarding speech, except in instances where the speech could impact the administration of justice.

Ogden_Paul_art-15col.jpg Attorney Paul Ogden exits a Disciplinary Commission hearing at the Statehouse July 30. (IL photo/ Dave Stafford)

On the stand, Ogden said Rule 8.2 “isn’t about stifling criticism of an elected judge. … I have a right to speak the truth about what happened.” But opposing witnesses testified that Ogden stood by critical remarks even after he was informed they were untrue.

Near the close of the almost 12-hour proceeding, hearing officer Robert York posed to Ogden several hypotheticals about attorney speech. York asked the extent to which statements like those he made regarding Hendricks Superior Judge David Coleman could be regulated under the rules.

“The Supreme Court has no authority to enforce the rules to infringe on my free speech rights,” Ogden said.

“Do any of these rules apply to you?” York asked at one point, holding up a copy of the professional conduct code. Seeming exasperated, Ogden said of course they did, but they “can’t be used to infringe my free speech.”

Coleman testified that he obtained copies of emails Ogden sent to opposing counsel in a trust case when someone left them behind in a file in court. Among other things, Ogden wrote that Coleman “should be turned in to the disciplinary commission for how he handled this case. If this case would have been in Marion County with a real probate court with a real judge, the stuff that went on with this case never would have happened.” Ogden claimed, among other things, that the estate’s value dwindled from about $1 million to almost nothing due to improper oversight.

Ogden also claimed that Coleman was friends with family members involved in the trust and should have recused himself, an allegation Coleman said he told Ogden was false. Ogden eventually had Coleman, the second judge in the five-year-long trust case, removed through a “lazy judge” motion.

“I had no conflict,” Coleman testified.

Disciplinary Commission attorney Seth Pruden asked Coleman, “As far as you know, are those emails true or false?” Coleman responded, “As far as I know, they’re false.”

“I don’t know of anything I did wrong on this case,” Coleman testified. He said after Ogden “attacked my integrity,” he sent Ogden a letter pointing out several remarks that were untrue. “I sent him a letter and asked him simply to apologize.”

But Ogden refused, repeating the errors that he said the judge had made in the estate case. Coleman then sent the emails to the commission, noting it was the first time in a long career that he had done so against an attorney. “He didn’t retract them,” Coleman said of Ogden’s comments. Had Ogden apologized or retracted the comments, Coleman testified, “I just wouldn’t have sent the letter.”

Ogden’s attorney, Adam Lenkowsky of Roberts & Bishop, repeatedly stressed that the comments were in private emails and said the comments only became public when the commission filed a verified complaint against Ogden.  

Lenkowsky recounted problems with the estate such as disbursements made without court approval. The opposing attorney on the trust case, Steven Harris of Mooresville, denied there were problems with the estate and instead characterized questionable disbursements as honest mistakes that were repaid when discovered. Coleman acknowledged under cross-examination that he had not filed notice of an estate open longer than one year.

Harris represented the estate of Robert P. Carr that was administered by his son, Robert Carr Jr. Ogden represented another heir in the estate, Robert P. Carr’s son, Randy Carr.

The hearing featured testimony from Robert Carr Jr. about his handling of the estate, and from Randy Carr, now serving a 20-year executed sentence at the New Castle Correctional Annex for dealing methamphetamine.

Shackled, in prison scrubs and escorted into the hearing by sheriff’s deputies, Randy Carr repeated accusations that Coleman was a friend of his family who’d joined his father at Christmas parties in the past, and that his father had millions of dollars squirreled away. Robert Carr Jr. testified none of those accusations were true and that his brother has “issues.”

But Randy Carr had informed Harris of conflicts he said Coleman had, and Harris conveyed those concerns to Coleman. The judge declined to recuse himself, saying he could find no conflict. Randy Carr said the judge also denied his request for an outside accounting of the estate.

When Lenkowsky sought to limit questions about Randy Carr’s past drug use, he alarmed Pruden when he volunteered that he also was representing Randy Carr in his post-conviction relief petition.

Pruden also grilled Ogden on the stand about how he handled his representation of Randy Carr in the estate case. Ogden acknowledged that he never obtained a chronological case summary. He also acknowledged that he was unaware when he criticized Coleman for failing to require a supervised trust or bond that those conditions had been put in place by a prior judge on the case who had recused himself.

“That’s what I believed to be true,” Ogden said of his criticism of Coleman. “That was inaccurate, yes.”

Ogden said he didn’t file a motion seeking Coleman’s disqualification because the judge already had ruled based on his client’s complaint. He also said the judge could have acted to better protect the interests of the estate.

York challenged Ogden on why he didn’t file motions on those matters and asked him to show a case in which a judge had issued such orders sua sponte. “It doesn’t happen,” York said.

Separately, Marion Superior Judge Patrick McCarty testified that he forwarded Ogden’s letter regarding asset distribution in forfeiture cases after he received it unsolicited. He said he feared the letter could be considered ex parte, so he forwarded it to the commission.

York asked attorneys to file findings of fact and conclusions of law within 30 days of the completion of the hearing record. Afterward, York will file his report to the Indiana Supreme Court which will determine what disciplinary action, if any, will be rendered.•
 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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